The Orlando Sentinel from Orlando, Florida on January 1, 1989 · Page 38
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The Orlando Sentinel from Orlando, Florida · Page 38

Orlando, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, January 1, 1989
Page 38
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"C-6 The Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, January 1, 1989 I i I " i -I I . i I i t ! t 4 N' , e c a s a o. 8 O e t t r (J .f e t d o o r P c ST OPTION rom C-1 t The most easily recognizable part of the option is when the quarterback sprints laterally behind the line of scrimmage with a running back trailing. Ideally only one defender will be in position to make a play. The quarterback heads upfield if the defender goes after the back or pitches it to the back if the defender heads toward him. The option can be run out of a variety of formations. The teams competing in Monday's Florida Citrus Bowl have very different styles. ' Oklahoma (9-2) has become synonymous with the Wishbone, which is the most famous, although rarely practiced, option formation. It employs three backs in addition to the running back and is used by teams that generally do not intend to throw often. Clemson (9-2) uses the I-formation. It is a formation often used by teams that run the tailback straight upfield, but Clemson mixes in option plays. The option may waver each year in numbers of teams that use it, but it continues to bring great success to many teams on all levels of college football. Oklahoma has run over its Big Eight competition since Coach Barry Switzer installed it in 1970 while he was the top offensive coach. . Both undefeated college teams No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 3 West Virginia run the option. So do Furman and Georgia Southern, which battled for the NCAA Division I-AA championship this season (Furman won), and North Dakota State, which won the Division II title. "I sat there and watched Notre Dame beat USC, and I recognized everything. Those are the same plays we ran," Yeoman said. J Homer Rice, former head coach at Cincinnati and Rice and now athletic director at Georgia Tech, is one of the founders and considered an expert on the option. Rice discovered it during the mid-1950s when he was. head coach at Fort Thomas (Ky.) High School apd'combined two types of plays the Inside Belly Series and the Flash. , "We put the two together, and it more or less happened by accident," Rice said. . In the Inside Belly the fullback gets the ball (out of a Split-T formation) and the right halfback is the lead blocker, but the coaches found that the fullback often had such a big hole he didn't need a blocker. ! -Instead of having the halfback block, they had him swing outside as in the Flash. This left two defensive players unchecked, but it worked. : -It worked even better when Rice added a wrinkle. He wondered if the quarterback could "read" the defensive tackle anticipate his moves and decided whether or not to pitch the ball. . .. X r II. .. . L I. J " V V v I jr - 1 - ; Rice, Royal, Stallings and Yeoman divised and refined the option in college football. The option was created, and it worked remarkably well in high school. From 1957 through 1961 the team went 50-0 in the regular season, won three state championships and was runner-up the other two. He called the offense the Short-T and called the option play the Triple. "No one understood it at that time," Rice said. "Then it was almost and unknown. People had a difficult time defending it. That was the fun part." Rice then was hired as an offensive coach at Kentucky, where he worked for four years. The option didn't catch on there because the players were better suited for the passing game. Ironically, he went to Oklahoma as an assistant in 1966 but wasn't sure the option would work at the college level. At the time Oklahoma was a strong passing team. It was a little before the option's time. The option gained prominence in the late 1960s when three Texas powers Houston, Texas and Texas A&M began running different option formations. They copied from each other, then everyone copied from them. Former Texas Coach Darrell Royal and assistant Emory Bellard often are mistakenly credited with inventing the triple option. What they did create was the Wishbone, which was a variation of the Houston Option, a Veer formation. Although some high schools had run the option, it still was a mystery when Houston began tinkering with it in 1964. Yeoman said the team was experimenting with split-back formations. "We looked at the film and said there might be something there," Yeoman said. "Then it started evolving a little bit." What Yeoman liked most about the option was that it took some of the burden off his offensive line. "Our friends in the media would rate our recruiting a C or C-minus, and we'd end up in the Cotton Bowl," Yeoman said. "We had a lot less ability in our offensive line than the people we were playing. With the Veer you have three of yours on two of theirs." Yeoman used the option through 1986, his final year coaching at Houston. Although it started at Houston, then caught on at Texas A&M, which ran it in the I-formation under Coach Gene Stallings, the option really caught on after Texas developed the Wishbone in 1968. It won the Cotton Bowl that season and was the wire-service national champion the next year. J "When we ran it no one knew about it. After they started it, everybody's running it," Yeoman said. The difference between the Wishbone and Houston's Veer is that Texas took what would have been a wingback and stuck him behind the quarterback as a second halfback. "None of our players was actually a wingback-type, but all of them had too much talent to sit on the bench. The University of Houston was having great success with the triple option, as were West Texas State and several others in our section of the country, and we wanted to' go with the triple option in some form," Royal told the American Football Coaches Association in 1970. When writers first asked what Royal called the formation, he said he hadn't really considered a name. The Y was suggested at first, but it had been used. Another suggested the Wishbone because of the shape, and it stuck. The option began to revolutionize college football and give it an identity separate from the pros. It also helped ease black athletes into the glamor position of quarterback. The option couldn't function without an outstanding all-around athlete at quarterback. They are hard enough to find without discounting blacks. "It probably had more influence on college football and the emergence of the black athlete than anything else," Switzer said. In the early 1970s the option was sweeping high schools and colleges. Many thought the NFL inevitably would adopt it, but that hasn't happened. An option play pops up every once in a while in the NFL. Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon runs an option play a few times a game, and the Indi-.: anapolis Colts run the Wishbone on short-yardage plays. The option isn't ever likely to become an NFL staple for several reasons, primarily because the quarterback is exposed to too much punishment. "It costs too much for those quarterbacks. They wouldn't last too long," Switzer said. "The minute they do it, the whole game's different," Yeoman said. "You'll have big linemen running from sideline to sideline. I think the guys have declared a truce and said, 'We won't if you won't.' " Also, the NFL is more concerned with entertaining fans, and most fans like to see teams throw the ball instead of grinding out yardage on the ground. That is the reputation, option offenses have, but it doesn't have to be. When Rice became a head college coach at Cincinnati, he quickly thought of ways to use the option to aid the passing game. Rice came up with the Air Option, combining the option with the pocket-passing game, and he had great offensive success with it. In 1968 Cincinnati led the nation in passing and averaged 442.1 yards. The team, quarterbacked by Greg Cook, broke 58 schools records and seven NCAA records. Later, Rice coached Tommy Kramer, who had'stel-lar seasons at Rice University and led the nation in total offense. Rice had combined the option and pocket-passing game, knowing that defenses couldn't stop both. The quarterback would decide at the line to run or throw based on the defensive formation. "They had to make a choice to rush the passer or try to absorb the triple. The coverage was showing their tendencies so we thought we had them where we wanted them," Rice said. Rice wrote a book about the Air Option in 1985 along with his former Rice assistant, Steve Moore. Rice is surprised the Air Option hasn't become as popular as other forms. "It hasn't caught on because it takes that special individual at quarterback," he said. "You see it a lot, but it's disguised quite a bit." The option has succeeded because it places such a burden on defenses, but although teams such as Oklahoma and Clemson have had great success with it, relatively few top college teams are using it as their primary offense. It remains popular among smaller colleges and high schools. But even though teams may not be basing their offense around the option, more and more teams are adding occasional option plays. "It comes back, and it will be new to people. You see more of a mixture now," Rice said. "There are more people with the option, but they run it six, seven, eight times a game with various offenses in the I-formation." ;V Vv7 X JOE BURBANKSENTINEL Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer may be thinking ahead to Monday. GAME From C-1 bation and said they fully expect to continue their success. "I think it winning is very important for the team, first just to put behind our problems no TV and whatever have you," junior safety Kevin Thompson said. "This win could carry over. I believe next year this team could be the best in the country." ' The Sooners have weathered probation extremely well in the past. The Sooners were undefeated and won wire-service national championships in 1955, 1956 and 1974 while on probation (although the probation in 1955 and 1956 didn't involve sanctions). The Sooners also won a wire-service championship in 1975. The Sooners' seniors don't have quite the same attitude. "I won't be here, so I doesn't affect me," quarterback Jamelle Holieway said. But Holieway will be running on pride to prove that he's not just a benchwarmer after coming back from a knee injury . The seniors also have too much of a winning tradition to be down. Oklahoma has lost only five gam in the last four seasons and addei another wire-service championship in 1985. "It's my last ballgame. I'd like to go out in the same fashion we're used to," All-America offensive guard Anthony Phillips said. "It doesn't matter if it's for the national championship or the Po-dunk championship. I don't see us going out and just wanting to get it over with." Clemson (9-2) wants a piece of Oklahoma's winning tradition. The Tigers have done extremely well under Ford, including a wire-service championship in 1981, but they still are considered a good football team from a great basketball conference. Oklahoma is 16-0 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams and 2-0 against Clemson. Last year the Tigers gained some respect by defeating Penn State in the Citrus Bowl, 35-10, and they want to take another step with a victory against Oklahoma. "We're anxious to play Oklahoma because of their tradition, their recruiting skills and their coaching staff," Clemson Coach Danny Ford said. "We want to match our people up against them and see where we are as a football program because theirs is excellent." Quarterback Rodney Williams: "When I think of college football I think of Oklahoma. It's going to be a great challenge. If we're fortunate enough to come out a?jead it would be great for Clemson." y n ) a V(o) u J ia JAxy CL O j Y We Beat Anybody's Best Price X- Whatever It Takes T Allied was the first to guarantee we'd beat anybody's H V price. Now our competitors are saying they'll beat V V our low prices. No way! We're the only one who will Y v' 1 do Whatever It Takes to give you a bigger and better j deal on tires! No matter what price you're quoted 1 on tires and services someplace else, Allied will sell , I f you the identical or comparable tire and services f 1 at a lesser price. ..It's That Simple! V Nobody Sells Tires J H "J ' Cheaper Than Allied. fc"fv I Absolutely Nobody! '""v. J SPECIAL MONDAY HOURS 8 A.M. - 3 P.M. 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